Today is October 13th, the 286th day of the year, a day in history when the first electron micrograph was taken of the deadly Ebola virus (1975), when Jordan joined the Yom Kippur War (1973), and when the rock legend Neil Young had throat surgery (1975). To my mind, this day in history is actually one of the most important on the calendar—because in 2009, it was designated as “National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day” by the U.S. House and Senate, thanks to the dedication and passion of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network (MBCN)’s legislative advocacy team.
The purpose: to draw attention to the unique and often unmet needs of the women and men in the United States who are living with metastatic breast cancer. As noted by Dr. William Gradishar, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, on the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network’s website, “While there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, some individuals are able to live longer with the disease. However, metastatic breast cancer remains a clinical challenge in the oncology community. October 13 places emphasis on the disease stressing the need for new, targeted treatments that will help prolong life.”
This day provides a critical opportunity to clear the misconceptions that far too many people have about breast cancer. First and foremost, do you remember when 2012 Congressional candidate Chris Collins of NY was quoted as saying, “People now don’t die from prostate cancer, breast cancer and some of the other things”? Yes, he really said that. But as atrocious as this was, the sad truth is that some folks do believe this—and worse, some essentially blame the patients themselves with metastatic disease, particularly those with breast cancer, thinking, “She must not have gone for her mammograms.” To which I say, “wrong and wrong: wrong, wrong, wrong!!!” The truth is that despite increased use and access to mammograms and some treatment advances, approximately 40,000 Americans die from metastatic breast cancer every year. And despite earlier and earlier diagnosis of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), also known as “stage 0,” precancerous, or preinvasive breast cancer, the incidence of metastatic disease has not significantly declined. Another truth: Mammography screening does NOT prevent nor cure breast cancer, but we do know that it can lead to overdiagnosis and overtreatment. And yet another truth: Not all breast cancers are the same. Some breast cancers are extremely aggressive, growing and spreading rapidly, and may not be effectively detected with screening mammograms. Others are more slow-growing and may be more easily found on mammography, yet may never have become invasive or life-threatening. Rather, there are many different forms of breast cancer, based on the biology of the tumors and the microenvironment surrounding the tumors—with each subtype having a different prognosis and responding differently to specific forms of treatment.
National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day promotes the type of awareness that is truly meaningful–by pushing aside all the pink ribbons (and pink blenders, guns, oil delivery trucks, and …) and revealing the important truths behind the pink curtain. So today, as my way of honoring all of those affected by metastatic breast cancer, I encourage you to:
* Read The 31 Truths About Breast Cancer, one truth for every day of October
* Help to increase awareness of the truths that matter by:
Sharing the 2 links above with your family, friends, and colleagues.
Sharing the MBCN’s “Grow Awareness. Share Support. Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness” page on your Facebook page, your Twitter account, and your Pinterest page. Every time you do so, AstraZeneca will make a donation to two metastatic breast cancer advocacy groups: Living Beyond Breast Cancer and the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network.
* Visit the websites for the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network, Living Beyond Breast Cancer, AdvancedBC.org, BrainMetsBC.org, and the new Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance. And please share information and links on my blog concerning additional organizations that are dedicated to the unique needs of women and men with metastatic breast cancer.
And please help me honor:
* the so many wonderful women and men we’ve lost to metastatic breast cancer,
* the far too many of my beloved friends and the tens of thousands in the U.S. and more across the world who are living with metastatic disease,
* and all those who are dedicating their lives to supporting women and men with metastatic breast cancer and who are tirelessly working to find the causes, enhanced treatments, and cure.